When it comes to the Cornhusker State, USDA has very high hopes for this fall’s harvest. According to numbers released Aug. 12, the agency estimates yields for corn (187 bpa) and soybeans (59 bpa) that are even higher than last year’s historic highs.
Could it happen? Maybe. But agronomists in the state point out that there have been plenty of differences in growing conditions between 2015 and 2016.
“We definitely have experienced warmer temperatures during July than we did in 2015 when we set the Nebraska record of 185 bushels per acre,” says Nathan Mueller, an Extension Cropping Educator in Fremont, Neb. “These warmer temperatures are being blamed for some pollination issues and tipback in the irrigated corn crop.”
The rainfall situation has been different too. “Rainfall totals during June and July in areas like south central, southeast, and northeast Nebraska are nowhere near what they were in 2015. Nebraska rainfall has been more variable in 2016 than 2015,”says Mueller. “Scouts (on the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour) will not find the consistency they did last year.”
He gives the example of his own yield estimates on three rainfed, non-irrigated cornfields. On one field with hail damage and 10% green snap, Mueller had an estimated yield of just 138 bpa. The other two were more promising, with estimated yields of 187 and 202 bpa.
But as good as that may sound, those Nebraska corn numbers are significantly below last year. “In 2015, rainfed corn in these same areas went 200 to 240 bushels per acre,” Mueller says, adding: “Even though we have had good rainfall compared to average, early season damping off from Pythium and early July pre-tassel green snap really dropped our ear count compared to normal.”
Jenny Rees, a Nebraska Extension cropping educator in York and Seward counties, says even irrigated corn has suffered a little this summer. “We are seeing anywhere from an inch to 2 inches of tip back on irrigated corn most likely due to the heat during pollination,” she says. “Non-irrigated corn in the area is highly stressed due to lack of rainfall, and we’re looking at below average yields in these portions of counties. We also just have a lot of different issues this year, including damage from wind and green snap, abnormal ear development in certain hybrids, and various insect and disease issues.”
Nebraska’s soybean farmers have also encountered some challenges. Like South Dakota, they have been dealing with hot days and dry patches. But you wouldn’t know it from their fields. According to USDA’s Aug. 8 crop report, 78% of the state’s soybeans are considered good to excellent.
“There is no doubt that Nebraska will raise a great soybean crop,” Mueller says. “But it is going to be tough to keep up with the record yielding soybean crop in 2015.”
The key factor? The next few weeks of August weather. “We had great rains during August to finish the soybean crop in 2015,” Mueller says. “Portions of the state are definitely experiencing drier soil moisture conditions during the first half of August than we had a year ago. Even with all our irrigated acres, we still have a large rainfed crop and we know that August precipitation is the biggest driver of that yield.”
Read the previews for the states covered by the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska and Minnesota.
Be sure to follow AgWeb's coverage of Farm Journal Media's Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour. Watch reports from the field by following Farm Journal Media journalists along for the ride on Twitter: Alison Rice at @agweb_alison, Ben Potter at @potterben, Chip Flory at @ChipFlory, Brian Grete at @bgrete, and Betsy Jibben at @BetsyJibben. And check AgWeb each evening this week for the day's freshest summary on what they're seeing in the field.